Our sleep was severely disturbed by the constant moving of our wagon which happened with ruthless knocks and incessant whistling and ringing of bells of the locomotives so that we greeted the departure of the train to our final destination, Cinnabar station, with pleasure.
The two-hour drive went alongside the Yellowstone river to a valley that opens up after passing through a gorge called the „Gate of the Mountains“. The name of the valley is Paradise Valley. High mountains with snow-covered peaks, among them Emigrant Peak 3340 m high, rise on both sides of the valley. A half hour before Cinnabar the valley becomes narrower again and forms a rocky romantic gorge with sandstone walls that rise up to 600 m high towards the mountains. Here already the volcanic character of the area becomes apparent in many of its rock types and forms.
At Cinnabar, the arriving passengers had to wait for large coaches pulled by four six very good horses for the drive to the first interesting point in the Yellowstone Park, Mammoth Hot Springs. Leaving the wagon we were welcomed by the severe cold and after barely half a kilometer we arrived in a snowy landscape. The vegetation was quite sparse matching the high altitude of around 1600 m above sea level, but there were fir trees near the streams and mountain ledges, a small thuja, poplars and an especially grey-green broom that is predominant here. I was astonished to see here everywhere a dwarf cactus armed with long spines who grows crawling on the floor.
The road was at times very steeply laid out as it had to rise 368 m over a distance of only about 13 km. At the small settlement of Gardiner that lies at the place where the eponymous river flows into the Yellowstone River I noticed numerous wapiti antlers lying around. Here we reached the territory of the Yellowstone national park.
This famous and much visited park that covers an area of 22.560 km2 was established by an act of congress in 1872 and declared a public park that may not be changed in any way: logging, hunting, mining etc. are all prohibited. This commendable act preserves the originality of the landscape distinguished by its natural beauty and its strange volcanic forms and protects it from destruction by humans. The whole are is of volcanic origin that causes a large number of geysers, hot springs, terraces an crater formations, obsidian rocks and sulphur hills that are both astonishing and admired by the visitors. For example, the geysers are said to surpass those in Island by far.
About one and a half kilometers from this point where one enters the park, one crosses the border to Wyoming on which lies the largest part of the park while Montana and Idaho participate with far smaller areas in this park.
Having conquered the last slope, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, nearly 2000 m above sea level, lay in front of us, a formless giant wooden building with multiple annexes, resplendent in red and yellow color. Some of the pavilions at the right served as barracks and stables for a cavalry battalion that is responsible for guarding the park and keeping up the order. The star-spangled banner on a high mast marked the assembly place of this formation.
The park is closed for visitors every year at the end of September so that the season was already coming to a close. Still there were many guests in the hotel and among them a considerable number of cantankerous Germans who had apparently come here from the exposition in Chicago. Even though the hotel offers space for 400 beds and is said to be the best of the park, it was nevertheless lacking in all comforts and an all the amenities for the travellers. A deficit that was further increased by the careless if not completely missing service.
After we finally had settled in our quarters, we went to the Mammoth Hot Springs, hot springs that form terraces by their lime deposits whose coloring and picturesque structure create such a splendid spectacle that can not be found in as beautiful manner in New Zealand, Island or Asia Minor. In a heavy snowfall we walked across the whole area consisting of around 70 springs and 10 to 12 terraces. Besides the white, flashy yellow or brown-red color of the depositions the deep blue of the springs that were bubbling and transporting their hot water out of unfathomable depths was all the more effective. Many of these sources whose temperature was fluctuating between 12 and 47° C. show, by the way, a totally clear surface so that we could look down the azure or dark-blue funnel, when the constant rising steam drifted away in the wind, and observe the structure of the deposits and the rocks. Despite the sometimes quite high temperatures of the water there was a thin layer of algae on the rocks. The crumbling edge of the springs was glittering due to the precipitations mostly in a brownish or vermilion color while at the drains beautiful dripstone and fine-leafed deposits were developing. If these are still fully white or light yellow mixed with sulphur, then it is seen as a proof that the spring had been in existence for a short time.
One strange characteristic of every volcanic area which is on display here especially frequently is the sudden disappearance and drying up of springs and geysers while just as unexpected they emerge anew in other places. Thus we were shown a spring that had existed only for two weeks but had already developed to quite a substantial size.
As in all places visited often by foreigners so here too every remarkable point, every terrace and spring had its own name that was preserved for eternity on white boards and often quite strange or absurd. Thus two mighty stone cones of dried up geysers standing in the open that are visited right at the beginning of the tour carry the names of Liberty Cap and Giant’s Thumb. Having passed these cones one climbs on snow-white lime up to the largest terrace called Minerva Terrace and then one terrace follows the next, spring follows spring. Among the most remarkable sights I count Jupiter Terrace, Pulpit Basins, Pictured Terrace, Narrow Gauge Terrace, Cupid’s Cave, Devil’s Cave and Bear Cave, — the last three named are deep crater-like holes in the rock out of which once springs flowed a long time ago — finally Orange Geyser and the White Elephant. These are two hot springs that do not form terraces but pile up their deposits as a cone. The name of Orange Geyser is correct in so far as the lime of this spring apparently includes a mixture of iron oxide and thus provides it with an orange-like appearance. The White Elephant in fact resembles a giant pachyderm of that species and hot water was gushing out from under our feet when we climbed up on one of the smooth sides and stepped on the „back“ of the formation.
Except for those already named there were numerous smaller structures, sources and springs. And nearly everywhere we stepped on this volcanic ground, it sounded dull and hollow under our steps. Many springs are noticed from far away by their whizzing, bubbling or dull noises.
At the foot of Mammoth Hot Springs an enterprising Yankee had opened up a shop where he offers various objects for sale that have been quickly covered by the hot waters with a hard lime layer similar as in Karlsbad.
The evening was quite unpleasant as there was no space in the hotel where once could smoke and talk after the dinner. One is limited to use the staircase and is faced with the presence of the less agreeable company of idling and spitting cowboys and workers who have access to all places, so that we finally fled to one of our rooms.
In the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel one is, by the way, forced to go to bed early as at 11 o’clock all electric lighting is turned off without any consideration for the guests.
- Location: Hot Mammoth Springs Hotel, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
- ANNO – on 21.09.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
- The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the drama „Die Zauberin am Stein“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Fra Diavolo“.